Some Pointers on Personal Finance

Friday, April 24, 2015 by Michelle

My nieces are all independent young adults now. I created a quick "financial pointers" sheet for them of my (often hard won) lessons in life on finances.
Everyday Living

  • Don’t let money run your life; money serves you, not the other way around.
  • Live within your means. Except for a mortgage, don’t go into debt if you can help it.
  • Ensure your credit card balances are paid off every month; pay automatically from your bank account and always be sure there’s enough to cover the payment.
  • Pay attention every month to bank and credit card balances.
  • Rock those points; use them to buy everything from fuel cards to appliances to RRSP contributions.
  • For medium- to large-ticket items, learn to comparison shop/price check (including checking online reviews).
  • When tempted to buy on impulse, ask yourself, “Will I love this in one year?”, then go have a coffee, take a walk or even better sleep on it. If it’s really worth it, go back.
  • Never buy something from someone who says, “this deal is only available right now/ today.” Don’t do it. Ever. Walk out of the situation.
  • Give to a registered charity on a monthly plan. The contributions help with taxes and it connects you to the community. Pick a cause or two you feel passionate about and establish a relationship with them.
  • Be realistic and tailor it to you (e.g., weekly cash envelopes, smart phone app and/or monthly reconciliations).
  • Don’t think of it as restrictive or feel guilty if you ‘cheat’ – it’s your money.
  • When you go on vacation, create a budget. A lot of expenses can be figured out ahead of time. Look for savings coupons for tourist attractions.
  • Start your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) yesterday; think of it as “untouchable” until you retire.
  • Build up to and save three months worth of living expenses in a savings account. It will take time to build.
  • Save for ‘near future’ extras like vacations rather than going into debt. It adds to the anticipation and will help you from overspending.
  • For all kinds of savings, do automatic deductions every week or month (and don’t take out an annual RRSP loan – contribute a little each month instead).
  • If your company offers matching RRSPs, do it. It’s free money.
  • Don’t be mortgage poor (e.g., the bank says you can afford $150K, look for a place in the $130K range).
  • Pay your mortgage every week or every two weeks (not monthly or twice per month). It takes years off your payments.
  • When you can, do an ongoing top up on your payment each month and/or make a lump-sum payment before the end of each year; it pays onto the principle and shrinks the length of time you have your mortgage.
There are free online courses you can take that will help you develop your financial management skills. Free. As in, just do it! If you have any good pointers, please add to the comments below.

Friendship ~ None of that Sissy Shit

Sunday, September 16, 2012 by Michelle

Are you tired of those sissy 'friendship' poems that always sound good, but never actually come close to reality? Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship. You will see no cute little smiley faces on this ~Just the stone cold truth of our great friendship.

When you are sad ~ I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.

When you are blue ~ I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

When you smile ~ I will know you are thinking of something that I would probably want to be involved in.

When you are scared ~ I will rag on you about it every chance I get until you're NOT.

When you are worried ~ I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining.

When you are confused ~ I will try to use only little words.

When you are sick ~ Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.

When you fall ~ I will laugh at your clumsy ass, but I'll help you up.

This is my oath... I pledge it to the end. 'Why?' you may ask ~ because you are my friend.

(my mom sent this to me by email and I thought it was perfect!)

Tea, by Douglas Adams

Sunday, June 10, 2012 by Michelle

An excerpt from "The Salmon of Doubt" by Douglas Adams (Pg 67, May 1999)

One or two Americans have asked me why the English like tea so much, which never seems to them to be a very good drink. To understand, you have to make it properly.

There is a very simple principle to the making of tea, and it's this--to get the proper flavour of tea, the water has to be boilING (Not boilED) when it hits the tea leaves. If it's merely hot, then the tea will be insipid. That's why we English have these odd rituals, such as warming the teapot first (so as no to cause the boiling water to cool down too fast as it hits the pot). And that's why American habit of bringing a teacup, a tea bag, and a pot of hot water to the table is merely the perfect way of making a tin, pale, watery cup of tea that nobody in their right mind would want to drink. The Americans are all mystified about why the English make such a big thing out of tea because most Americans HAVE NEVER HAD A GOOD CUP OF TEA. That's why they don't understand. In fact, the truth of the matter is that most English people don't know how to make tea anymore either, and most people drink cheap instant coffee instead, which is a pity, and gives Americans the impression that the English are just generally clueless about hot stimulants.

So the best advice I can give to an American arriving in England is this: Go to Marks and Spencer and buy a packet of Earl Grey tea. Go back to where you're staying and boil a kettle of water. While it is coming to the boil, open the sealed packet and sniff. Careful---you may feel a bit dizzy, but this is in fact perfectly legal. When the kettle has boiled, pour a little of it into a teapot, swirl it around, and tip it out again. Put a couple (or three, depending on the size of the pot) of tea bags into the pot. (If I was really trying to lead you into the paths of righteousness, I would tell you to use free leaves rather than bags, but let's just take this in easy stages.) Bring the kettle back up to the boil, and then pour the boiling water as quickly as you can into the pot. Let is stand for two or three minutes, and then pour it into a cup. Some people will tell you that you shouldn't have milk with Earl Grey, just a slice of lemon. Screw them. I like it with milk. If you think you will like it with milk, then it's probably best to put some milk into the bottom of the cup before you pour in the tea. If you pour milk into a cup of hot tea, you will scald the milk. If you think you will prefer it with a slice of lemon, then, well, add a slice of lemon.

Drink it. After a few moments you will begin to think that the place you've come to isn't maybe quite so strange and crazy after all.

Everything is Going to Be Alright

Monday, December 26, 2011 by Michelle

Last winter, in the depths of a miserable night of rain and my own life's sadness, I was coming home from a class on the Skytrain. Just out of Stadium Station, I looked North and saw a neon sign that surprised me with a message that read, "Everything is Going to be Alright". This unexpected message of hope and optimism lifted me out of the sadness that had been engulfing me in that moment, and truly made me feel hope, even if only briefly. "Yes, yes, it will be alright. Even if it won't really be alright, surely it will be alright." Sometimes art makes that kind of difference. Sometimes art makes ALL the difference.